Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

1:1non

husband, and cherishing her children. Agreeably to this state of manners, respectable women are never seen in the public roads, streets, or places of resort. What would a European say if the fair sex were at once to be excluded from public view--and if, in every public assembly, every private walk, every domestic circle, he was to meet only the faces of men !

When a child is ill, the mother, supposing that her milk is the cause of its sickness, abstains from bathing, eating sour food, fish, &c. and partakes of food only once a day. Sometimes, after making a vow, and promising some gift, if the deity will restore her child to health, she abstains from cutting the child's hair until the expiration of the vow; others tie up a lock of hair, and repeat over each hair in the lock the name of a different deity : this clotted hair may frequently be seen on the heads of children.

Though the children of the highest and the lowest casts seldom play in company, yet the offspring of casts which more nearly approximate are often seen in the streets, playing together with the utmost freedom; and indeed if a child at play should have food in its hand, and the child of another cast partake of it, it is not much noticed. Hindoo children play with earthen balls, and with the small shells which pass for money. Bigger boys amuse themselves in different kinds of inferior gaming, as dice, throwing kourees, &c. ; in boyish imitations of idolatrous ceremonies ; in kites ; leaping ; wrestling ; in a play in which two sides are formed, bounds fixed, and each side endeavours to make incursions into the boundary of the other without being caught ; in hide and seek, and the like. Children are seldom corrected, and having none of the moral advantages of the children of christian parents, they ripen fast in iniquity, and among the rest in disobedience to parents. At a very early age, they enter the paths of impurity, in which they meet with no checks either from conscience, the virtuous examples of parents, or the state of public morals.—A bramhun, who appeared to respect Christianity, was one day reading the first chapter of the epistle to the Romans in Bengalee ; and while going over this melancholy description of the sins of the heathen, he confessed, with a degree of astonishment, how remarkably applicable it was to the manners of his own countrymen.

Marriages.- A Hindoo, except he be grown up, as in second marriages, never chooses his own wife. Two persons frequently agree while the children are infants, to give them in marriage, but most commonly a parent employs a man called ghutuku, to seek a suitable boy or girl for his child.

The son of a shoodru is often married as early as bis fith year ; the sons of a brumhun, after being invested with the poita, at seven, nine or eleven. Delays to a later period are not unfrequent : parents cannot always obtain a suitable match, or money is wanting ; marriages also must be regulated by the cast, and by complicated customs. Amongst the middling ranks, five hundred roopees are often expended, and amongst the rich many thousands, at the marriage of a son.

One of the Hindoo shastrus gives the following directions respecting the qualities of a wife :" She who is not descended from his paternal or maternal ancestors within the sixth degree, is eligible by a twice-born man for nuptials. In connecting himself with a wife, let him studiously avoid the following families, be they ever so great, or ever so rich in kine, goats, sheep, gold and grain : the family which has omitted prescribed acts of religion ; that which has produced no male children ; that, in which the vedu has not been read ; that, wbich has thick hair on the body ; and those, which have been subject to [here a number of diseases are mentioned.] Let a person choose for his wife a girl, whose form has no defect; who has an agreeable name ; who walks gracefully like a young elephant ; whose bair and teeth are moderate respectively in quantity and in size ; whose body bas exquisite softness."

The following account of the person of Sharuda, the daughter of Brumha, translated from the Shivu pooranu, may serve as a just description of a perfect Hiudoo beauty ; This girl was of a yellow colour: had a nose like the flower of the sesamum; her legs were taper like the plantain tree; ber eyes large like the principal leaf of the lotus ; her eye-brows ex. tended to her ears ; her lips were red like the young leaves of the mango tree; her face was like the full moon ; her voice like the sound of the cuckow ; her arms reached to her knees ; her throat was like tbat of a pigeon ; her loins narrow like those of a lion; her hair hung in curls down to her feet; her teeth were like the seeds of the pomegranate ; and her gait like that of a drunken elephant or a goose. .

Each cast has its own order of ghutukus, which profession may be embraced by any person qualified by cast and a knowledge of the ghutuku shastrus. They sometimes propose matches to parents before the parents themselves have begun to think of the marriage of their child. Many of these men are notorious flatterers and liars, and in making matrimonial alliances, endeavour to impose in the grossest manner upon the parents on both sides. If the qualities of a girl are to be commended, the ghutuku declares, that she is beautiful as the full moon, is a fine ligure, of sweet speech, has excellent hair, walks gracefully, can cook and fetch water, &c. After the report of the ghutuku, a relation on each side is deputed to see the children, and if every thing respecting cast, person, &c. be agreeable, a written agreement is made between the two fathers ; and in this way, persons are united in wedlock with as much indifference as cattle are yoked together ; matrimony becomes a mere matter of traffic, and chil. dren are disposed of according to the pride of parents, without the parties, who are to live together till death, having either choice or concern in the business.

These very early marriages are the sources of the most enormous evils ; these pairs, brought together without previous attachment, or even their own consent, are seldom happy. This leads men into unlawful connexions, so common in Bengal, that three parts of the married population, I am informed, keep concubines. Many never visit, nor take their wives from the house of the father-in-law, but they remain there a burden and a disgrace to their parents : or, they abandon the paternal roof at the call of some paramour. Early marriages also give rise to another dreadful evil : almost all these girls after marriage remain at home, one, two, or three years ; and during this time numbers are left widows, without having enjoyed the company of their husbands a single day : these young widows, being forbidden to marry, almost without exception, become prostitutes. To these miserable victims of a barbarous custom are to be added, all the daughters of the kooleenus, who never leave the house of the father, either during the life, or after the death of their husbands, and who invariably live an abandoned life. The consequences resulting from this state of things are universal prostitution, and the perpetration of unnatural crimes to a most shocking extent.

In the marriages of the rich, great preparations of music, fire works, illuminations, &c. are made, and vast multitudes are invited to the wedding. Some personis spend more than 100,000 roopees* in the marriage of a son or a daughter. At a fortunate hour in the night, the bridegroom, dressed in silk, and wearing many gold and silver ornaments, a gold chain round his neck, and a gilt crown upon his head, prepares to go to the house of the bride : he is seated in a gilt palanqueen, or in a tuktunama. If in the latter, there is room for

* About 55,000 dollars.

A roopee is 2s. 6d. sterling.

four servants to stand at the four corners, in the inside to fan him, or rather to wave over him a brush, made of the tail of the cow of Tartary. The procession at a magnificent wedding is very long : before the bridegroom's palanqueen, the servants of the father walk, carrying silver staves ; open carriages proceed slowly, containing dancing women and singers; a flag is also carried, and a metal instrument like a dish is placed on an elephant, and beat at intervals. The streets are illuminated by the flambeaux and lights which the attendants carry in their hands; and fireworks, placed on both sides the streets, are discharged as the procession moves along. Horses, camels, and elephants, richly caparisoned, are placed in convenient situations in the procession, and musicians, "playing on various instruments, are placed before and behind the bridegroom. Lately many of the rich natives have called in the assistance of English music at their weddings. At intervals guns are fired. All things for the procession being prepared before hand, the whole waits for the coming of the bridegroom.

At a marriage, the procession of which I saw some years ago, the bridegroom caine from a distance, and the bride lived in Serampore ; to which place the bridegroom was to come by water. After waiting 2 or 3 hours, at length near midnight, it was announced, as if in the very words of scripture, “ Behold, the bridegroom cometh ; go ye out to meet him."--All the persons employed, now lighted their lamps, and ran with them in their hands to fill up their stations in the processions ; some of them had lost their lights, and were unprepared : but it was then too late to seek them, and the cavalcade, something like the above, moved forward to the house of the bride, at which place the company entered a large and splendidly illuminated area, before the house, covered with an awning, where a great multitude of friends, dressed in their best apparel were seated upon mats. The bridegroom was carried in the arms of a friend, and placed on a superb seat in the midst of the company, where he sat a short time, and then went into the house--the door of which was immediately shut, and guarded by seapoys. -I and others expostulated with the door keepers, but in vain. Never was I so struck with our Lord's beautiful parable as at this moment ;

And the door was shut !"--I was exceedingly anxious to be present while the marriage formulas were repeated, but was obliged to depart in disappointment.

From time immemorial, the Hindoo young men have con. sidered a wedding procession, as it passes through the villages to the house of the bride, as fair game ;-groups of wicked boys and young men, therefore, attack the wedding company in all those ways by which they can most annoy them, and in which they are greatly assisted by the darkness of the night. Serious disputes, attended with the loss of lives, have sometime occurred amidst this rough and dangerous mirth.

After entering the house the bridegroom is led to the place where the marriage rites are to be performed, and where the father in law, taking off the old garments of the boy, arrays him in new clothes, and takes him into an inner apartment, where they make him stand on a stool placed on a corv's head and certain other things buried in the earth. Next they bring the bride on a stool covered with the bridegroom's old garments, and carry the girl round the bridegroom seven times : they then permit the pair tairly to look at each other, perhaps for the first time. After some few other ceremonies, the officiating bramhun directs the boy to put his hand on a pan of water, and places the hand of the girl on his, he then ties them together with a garland of flowers. Then the father in law repeating the genealogy of the girl from the great grand father downward, and describing her as wearing such and such jewels, gives her to the boy, repeating also his name and genealogy, the bridegroom answers “ I have received her.” This being concluded, the father of the bride invites the company to sup at his house. After this a number of cerernonies are performed by the friends, which continue a week or more, when the bride goes to her father's house and the bridegroom to his.

At the end of a year, the bridegroom takes home his wife ; or, if she be very young, she remainis at her father's (visits excepted) till the proper time for their ultimate union, when her husband proceeds to the house of his fatherin-law, if a poor man, on foot, and if rich, in a palanqueen, with a few friends. When the married pair return to the house of the boy's father, most of those ceremonies are repeated which took place there on the day after marriage. A Hindoo, on his marriage, does not become a house-keeper, as in England, but continues to live with his father; and in this way, if they can agree, many generations live together. At present, however, separations into distinct families are becoming more and more common.

Few men continue in a single state to old age : those who do, cohabit with concubines : few females remain unmarried : none who can obtain husbands. Yet the cast presents such

« ZurückWeiter »